Every athlete claims their sport makes the toughest claims on individuals. But when you stakc them up against ultra marathoning they don’t have a lot to say.
Ultra marathoning are gruelling foot races that last anywhere between tow and six days.
They are oftn held in hostile environments like deserts or snowbound valleys and are designed to push competitors to their absolute physical and mental limits.
But despite what you might think, it’s not a sport for masochist. The ultra marathon community are close-knit, well organised, and caring of each other. The competition is against the event, not each other. So you’ll often see competitors giving each other advice and encouragement within the event.
And encouragement is a necessary ingredient for anyone hoping to finish. Blisters, torn toe nails, sleep deprivation, dehydration and exhaustion are only some of the challenges competitors face. Depending upon the race runners may also face threats of twisted ankles, sun stroke, snakes, snow sink-holes, thin ice and – worst of them all – motorists.
Despite a host of environmental and physical challenges presented each race contestants agree the hardest to overcome is sleep deprivation. The hours between 2 and 5am are the worst. These are the hours when the body is usually in its deepest rest state. And the body doesn’t want to give it up.
Competitors are told to eat a minimum of 4,000 calories a day while competing. And it doesn’t matter what. Any food you ingest will be used as energy; so pizzas and hamburgers, chocolate cake and coffee are all on the menu.
It’s obvious then that no one enters an ultra-marathon without a well-staffed and prepared team able to refuel and look after their runner. While pictures may show an individual crossing the finish line none of them would have made it without the assistance of a host of hidden others.